Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Another Option for Freezing Fresh Basil: French Pistou Sauce in Honor of Julia Child

French Pistou Sauce in Honor of Julia Child
For years I've been freezing fresh basil, and I've also used my garden basil to make basil pesto for the freezer. This year though, buzz about Julia Child, the upcoming movie of Julie and Julia, and thoughts of Soupe au Pistou inspired me to use my first basil pickings for French pistou sauce instead. What's the difference between pesto and pistou? A little quick research using Food Blog Search turned up many variations of pistou. Some recipes include tomatoes, parsley, or other herbs, and pistou may or may not have cheese. Most times though pistou doesn't contain nuts, and pistou usually has more garlic in proportion to basil than pesto. does. Pesto and pistou are both best made to your own taste anyway, so here's my version of pistou, which I'm looking forward to drizzling on soup next winter.

This is a medium-sized colander, but as you can see, I have rather a lot of basil. When you trim the basil, cut through the stems, being careful to leave some leaves on the stem to produce new plant growth.

Pull or snip the leaves from the stems and wash in a salad spinner or wash in the sink and dry with paper towels. (I like to snip the leaves, because the basil turns your fingers black!)

Put the washed and dried basil leaves in the food processor with the garlic and salt and process until finely chopped.

Then add the olive oil and pulse just a few times to combine. You can also remove the chopped basil from the food processor and stir in the olive oil. I might do that next time, because if you over-process with the oil added, it gives the pistou a cloudy "emulsified" look.

I made quite a few batches of pistou from the basil I picked, and froze it in 1/2 cup servings, which seemed to me like about the right amount to add to soup or mix into basil vinaigrette. I got 8 half-cup containers of pistou from the basil I trimmed from my plants.

After I filled the containers, I drizzled a little olive oil over the top of each to keep the basil from turning dark in the freezer. Just mix this oil into the pistou when it's thawed.

French Pistou Sauce (Fresh Basil, Garlic, and Olive Oil Sauce)
(Recipe amounts make about 1 cup of pistou. Adapted slightly from this pistou recipe, with a lot of online research and a peek at my one lonely Julia Child Cookbook!)

2 cups fresh basil leaves (very firmly packed into measuring cup)
3 T chopped fresh garlic (or use garlic puree from a jar, although Julia would probably not approve)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste (I used about 1 tsp.)

Wash and dry basil leaves and put in food processor. (This sauce can also be made with in small batches in a mortar and pestle if you're feeling ambitious.) Add garlic and salt and process until basil is finely chopped (close to a minute, depending on your food processor.)

Add oil and process only a few pulses (or remove the chopped basil to a bowl and stir in the oil, which is what I would do if I was only making one batch.)

Place pistou into individual freezer-proof plastic containers with a tight lid. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top of the pistou in each container.

I recommend putting a label and the date on things you put in the freezer, even if you're "sure" you will remember what it is! Have you ever made pistou? If so, we'd love to hear about your pistou recipes or ideas for using pistou in the comments.

With all the wonderful fresh basil, this pistou recipe is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Dhangitt's Kitchen this week. WHB is now being managed by the talented Haalo at Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once. If you're cooking with herbs or unusual vegetables, check who's hosting and the rules for Weekend Herb Blogging, then join in the fun.

Some Recipes Where I'd Use My Basil Pistou:
Roasted Tomato, Basil, and Goat Cheese Holiday Spread
Foil-Baked Salmon with Basil Pesto and Tomatoes
Basil Vinaigrette for Drizzling on Tomatoes
Summer Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil Vinaigrette, and Fresh Herbs
Chickpea Soup with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Basil

Julia Child's Pistou Online:
Soupe au Pistou from The Blog That Ate Manhattan
Soup au Pistou from Tofu and Cupcakes

More Versions of Pistou from Other Bloggers:
Soupe au Pistou from Mark Bittman at Bitten
Soupe au Pistou from Cooking in Color
Vegetable Soup Provencal from Ms. Glaze's Pommes d'Amour
Chunky Pistou Soup from Dhangitt's Kitchen
Provencal Soupe au Pistou from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

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  1. Wow, what a basil crop you have! I'd be quite happy to drizzle this pistou straight into my mouth, but more traditional uses are also very appealing.

  2. Good idea. I only have 7 basil plants this year, so I won't have anything left over to save. I'm picking those poor things dry:)

  3. Hmmm...freezing fresh basil. I could do that! I've tried bringing my herb plants indoors in the fall, but they never seem to survive the transition.

  4. I love having fundamental sauces like this in my freezer. Come the middle of winter, there are so many ways to use it, and it feels like a treat to have the fresh taste of basil from the garden when there's snow on the ground.

  5. This is the first that I have heard of a pistou sauce but it sounds like a great way to enjoy some basil!

  6. Thank you for the 'measurement' of basil! I have seen so many recipes that called for 1 lb. or 2 oz....I don't have an accurate scale and one pound sounds like a lot! Also, thanks for the tips on cutting and freezing~

  7. Never knew of pistou only pesto, but basil either way.

  8. This is very funny because I made a Pistou Pizza this past weekend! I'm allergic to pinenuts so pistou is a better option for me than traditional pesto! Thank you for this post, it reminds me I need to start freezing down my basil plant :)

  9. Hi Kalyn,

    Can you tell me how you freeze fresh basil?? I thought if you didn't make it into a pesto or sauce it would turn brown.

    I made my pesto pretty traditionally this year - toasted walnuts & pinenuts, parm, olive oil. It's spicy and rich...just incredibly delicious.

  10. Thanks for sharing that, my son is allergic to nuts and I never realized there was another version without nuts, I'll have to try that out.

  11. Dara, the basil is doing pretty well. My garden is finally getting going, but there are so many weeds!

    Chris, I'm guessing I have about 30 plants. I start a lot of them from seed, highly recommend it!

    Daisy, I've been doing it for years.

    Lydia, can't wait to use this in winter.

    Kevin, works very well.

    Frieda, I agree, that bugs me in a recipe too!

    Linda, very similar!

    Meghan, perfect for you. Get freezing!

    Amy, here's the information on how to freezer fresh basil. You coat the chopped basil with olive oil.

    Poulsen family, perfect for nut allergies.

  12. Pistou or pesto, it sure is nice to use in a soup in the middle of winter.
    You sure have lots of fresh basil in your garden. Nest year, I'll plant more basil...

  13. Oh I love that healthy green look of your basil. So rich in vitamins and yumminess! What a great entry for WHB! Thanks :-)

  14. Nutrid1, basil is easy to grow from seed. I plant a few plants for some early basil and then plant rows of seeds. The only painful part is thinning the little baby plants. If you use seeds, you can have armloads of basil for little cost.

    Dhanggit, thanks. Don't you just love the smell of fresh-picked basil?

  15. I really like anything pesto-like. I keep kicking myself for not stocking up on basil yet and making massive batches of pesto to freeze!

  16. I've already harvested my basil twice this season, and it's ready for another picking. Thanks for this recipe. (and for the link)


  17. I had pistou in a soup last week and was asking myself the same question! Thanks for clearing this up - I am going to grab a bunch more basil at the farm next week and give this a shot.

  18. I sometimes make pistou in the spring and stir it into vegetable soup. Delicious!

  19. Love basil. The smell wakes me right up. I sponsored a book signing with Julia Child. Not only was she particularly nice to every single person. She also stayed extra and when leaving was approached by
    a late customer and again took the time to be kind. She had the biggest turnout of any writer that I sponsored. Seriously lines right out the door.

  20. Joanne, farmers market????

    Margaret, lucky you (and my pleasure to include your soup!)

    TW, have to admit I was surprised at how many variations there were, but I went for the pure version!

    Katerine, perfect for that!

    Sealharvey, what a thrill! Thanks for sharing the memory.

  21. This is a great way to preserve basil for winter. I also do my cilantro the same way. It's wonderful when summer is just a memory.

  22. Absolutely perfect timing! I was planning on harvesting another batch of basil this weekend for pesto, but this is an even better idea!

  23. The wonderful thing about pesto/pistou is that you can use it as a "template".

    After you learn the basic recipe, you can then begin to branch out in other directions.

    The basic template is herb or greens, nuts, cheese, garlic and good-quality olive oil. Some variations include citrus in the form of lemon juice or zest. So if you don't have basil, you could for example, use mint, arugula or garlic scapes. In place of pine nuts, walnuts or pistachios are wonderful. Cheese could be Parm-Reg, pecorino or grana padano.

    One variation I regularly make is ramps pesto. When ramps are in season, from late March through mid- to late-May, I buy a couple of pounds and use half for pesto. Keeps for up to three weeks refrigerated or may be frozen for a longer period. If you do freeze it, add the cheese prior to using.

  24. Your garden must be amazing! Looks like such beautiful, fresh basil. I really need to start an herb garden!

  25. Maris right now my garden is amazingly full of weeds, but the herbs don't seem to mind!

  26. great idea to make pistou! I usually make pesto, but lately, I have had several soup recipes that call for a pistou finish. The last one used mint and parsley, your post has given me the idea to whip up some of that for the freezer too!

  27. I love this. I have to make some and freeze it. This is always so convenient in the winter.

  28. Got an excellent tip here! Drizzling olive oil on top to keep them from turning dark when frozen. Didn't know about that one, that's certainly handy. Thanks so much!

  29. Kalyn, thanks for posting this. I've actually never heard of pistou until now, but it looks delicious. Another way to use it might be on a whole wheat pizza crust with reduced-fat mozzarella and fresh tomatos. A lot of pizza places here in LA make 'pesto pizza.' I love your recipes! Right in line with my low GI diet.

  30. Kalyn...where did you get your freezer containers? They are the PERFECT size for this!

  31. Richelle, wish I could get more of them, but I bought those containers more than 10 years ago at Fred Meyer (now Smith Marketplace) in Salt Lake. I've never seen them anywhere else since then. (Thank goodness I did buy several packages of them!)

  32. I'd also like to thank you for your methods of measuring and freezing basil. I am hoping to salvage some of my herbs today. I was in the hospital for five days, somewhat unexpectedly...came home yesterday and the plants do not look so good. So I will use these techniques. Wish me luck.

  33. Anonymous, if you trim the basil stalks and leave some lower leaves, you should be able to nurture the plants back to health. Hope so!

  34. I'd really like to get some freezer containers like your; can you let me know where to purchase? Thanks.

  35. Kathleen, answered above for another reader: I bought those containers more than 10 years ago at Fred Meyer (now Smith Marketplace) in Salt Lake. I've never seen them anywhere else since then. (Thank goodness I did buy several packages of them!)



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